To Save A Baby Bird

moon phase Week of 08/14/2011 Favorable Days For Planting Root Crops, Fine For Vine Crops. Good Days For Transplanting.

I was just minding my business, pulling some unwanted weeds at the edge of the prairie garden, when I felt a tap at the side of my head. Hungry Baby Bird Hungry Baby Bird I know what makes that tap and what it means. It means Iím too close to a nest of bees and one of them let me know by flying into me. Itís the beeís way of warning me to get out of there or else.

Iíve learned to respect the beeís angry message, so I immediately took three steps backwards. It must have been the wrong direction, though, because I felt a sharp sting on the back of my right arm, then another on my left forearm, and then a real stinger on the back of my neck. By then I was hastily moving to the open yard and swinging my arms over my head. They were some kind of small ground bees and one of them wouldnít leave me alone.

The 150 Year Old G-School The 150 Year Old G-School I snapped off the stem of a phlox and swung it around my head as I ran toward the house. The clever little bee wouldnít give up the chase and I didnít get rid of him until the screen door slammed behind me. I had just been driven one hundred yards to the house by an insect so small that I could barely see him. Itís hardly the first time I came across a nest of ground-nesting bees and it probably wonít be the last. Iím no stranger to bee stings but I canít ever remember one who chased me so far with such determination.

I was out for a walk with the camera just before dark last night when I heard a bird song that I didnít recognize. My curiosity always has me searching for the bird that makes the song so I walked over under the trees and peered up where I thought the sound was coming from. Hummingbird Moth Hummingbird Moth I could have sworn the single note song was coming from above me then it definitely sounded closer to the ground. Then I heard it up in the trees again and then I thought the bird song came from behind me. I was getting kind of frustrated because the sound was moving all around me, yet I didnít see a bird move from place to place.

Thatís when I looked down at my feet and spotted a small bird in the tall grass. A young bird that was just starting to get his pinfeathers opened his yellow mouth wide when I bent down to see him. I couldnít tell what kind of bird he was, because he was mostly featherless skin with no markings. Scarlet Runner Beans Scarlet Runner Beans I looked around for the nest he may have fallen from but couldnít find one. I thought maybe one of his parents might show up and give me a clue to who he was, but they werenít around. I was amazed at how this tiny bird, less than a week old, could throw his voice around like that. He had me walking in circles trying to find him when he was right at my feet all along.

This little guy was hungry. It would be dark soon with a good chance of rain that night. I didnít like his chances of making it through the night, so I made a nest for him in the house. Eagle in Flight Eagle in Flight He eagerly ate four crickets, two small grasshoppers and an earthworm. I fed him again because he was hungry again in twenty minutes then he slept through the night. His begging calls started at sun up and I fed him every 20 minutes throughout the day. Weíll take it one day at a time and hopefully all will go well.

These August mornings are beautiful. The heavy, damp air and the lingering fog in the river valley makes for my favorite time of the day. A pretty doe and her two spotted fawns cross the road near the house. They are headed for a peaceful place to spend the day after foraging for food the night before. Yellow Coneflower Yellow Coneflower   Iím a little surprised at how small the fawns are. Most of them Iíve been seeing are three-quarters grown and their spots have nearly faded away. It was good to see how clean and shiny the doeís coat was. They all looked healthy and happy.

Iíve been finding shed feathers here and there that were molted by various birds. The small feathers, like those found on the breast, are harder to spot and more challenging to identify. The larger flight feathers are the long wing or tail feathers, and these are more noticeable and easier to recognize. The wild birds molt all their feathers in the summer. One at a time, the old worn out feathers are replaced with new, healthy, strong feathers. Mason Wasps Mason Wasps The process takes several weeks and, with new feathers, the bird will have a better chance of surviving the coming year. Today I found a nice tail feather from a shiny black crow and, not far away, a wing feather from a blue jay. They were both just lying on the top of the short grass as though they had just floated down from the sky. I thought it interesting that both feathers were from the same family of birds known as Corvidae (crows and jays).

I found another two feathers on the north side of the house, a tail feather from a cardinal and a wing feather from a Rose-breasted grosbeak. Both of these birds are thick-beaked seed-eaters who are often seen together at the bird feeders. Itís like finding a little treasure when I spot a molted feather on the ground. Itís fun to figure out which feather came from which bird.

I watched a mason wasp with a taste for bee balm fly from flower to flower like a honey bee. Thereís so much to see in August as Nature produces the ultimate sights of summer. Soon the first subtle signs of autumn will be here, so now is the time to get outside and take it all in.

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Sharon from from West Falmouth,+MA on August 18, 2011 at 02:14:20 AM
Dan,
When I was young, I remember my mother had to raise 4 baby birds that a storm had knocked out of some tree. She had never done it before, but she did it. We watched as after a couple of months?, she threw them into the air and were shocked they flew to a nearby tree. How on Earth do they do that? We humans have to fall down quite a few times before we can even learn to walk.
Sharon from from West Falmouth, MA on August 18, 2011 at 01:58:25 AM
When I read about the ground bees, it brought back the time I had tried, with a hose for two days, to get a 2 ft hornet nest that was 25 ft up an oak tree, down. It was right above where my neighbor and I were going to have a yard sale. Well, I was dumb and in frustration, took a large rock and threw it to try and knock it down. I missed so turned to walk away. I then heard a large thundering noise. What I didn't know was that the rock had hit a branch behind the nest, bounced back and hit it. I instinctively tucked my head down, put my arms to cover my neck and sides of my face. I was frozen with fear as I could feel my entire head, arms and back covered and the noise was deafening. Thank God my 3 children and friends across the street screamed "run mom...run". I can laugh now, but I used to run track and I think I broke all those records. I was barefoot and ran 200 ft to my gravel driveway, then the 125 ft to my front door. They all followed me, even taking the sharp right up the drive. I started to shake and knew I was in trouble, so grabbed a bottle of Benedryl and swallowed half the bottle. Good thing as I had seven stings by Bald-faced Hornets (which are really wasps)and later found I am allergic to wasps, jackets and hornets. My daughter kept putting on vinegar to counter the venom. I passed out for 2 or more hrs. and was later told I was lucky. Respect the bee.
Laurie from from Midland, Michigan on August 17, 2011 at 09:05:42 PM
Dan,
Ground bees are a curse. I take my biggest kettle full of boiling water and pour it down their hole at night. They are relentless stingers and they will sting a person to death, it happened to an elderly gardener a few years ago.
I look forward to hearing what kind of birdie you are parenting!
Thanks for all your great info. Didn't realize wild birds shed...always thought a hawk plucked 'em!
Laurie
Jan from from TN on August 17, 2011 at 08:03:53 PM
Dan, I know you must have good remedies for bee stings, but my favorite is to put a little baking soda in a bowl (large enough to contain the fizz) and add a little white vinegar to it. As it fizzes, dab the mixture onto the sting with a cotton ball. It will stop fizzing, but continue to saturate the sting with the mixture for about 10 minutes. Most of the time, you cannot even find the mark the next day, and the stinging leaves within a very few minutes. Good for minor burns, too. What an exciting week you have had in "your" valley. I do hope the baby makes it. My birds molt all year round, green, gray, red, blue, yellow, for the most part. Yes, I have tropical birds, an African Grey, a Quaker parrot, and a Sun Conure. So much company. Your bee balm is still pretty, mine has seed heads now on most of the stalks. The hummers sure love that and the Sweet Williams. Thank you for these columns you write! Happy Naturing, Jan
Sue from from Molalla, Oregon on August 17, 2011 at 03:59:48 PM
I had a ground wasp encounter like that a few years back. I stepped up to pull some tansy and suddenly sting sting to the back of my head. I RAN all the way to the house (400 feet) swinging my arms and still being stung by wasps in pursuit! Never did get the tansy; stayed away from that spot the rest of the summer.
Mari from from Menomonee Falls,+WI on August 17, 2011 at 02:01:47 PM
Could you tell me what ground bees (and are they really bees or wasps??) look like? Thanks.
Nay from from NJ on August 17, 2011 at 12:14:33 PM
Love your blog & will pray for your little bird. Let us know how it goes.
Connie from from Western New York on August 17, 2011 at 11:03:27 AM
I'm a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and would like to comment on your story about the orphaned baby bird. In my opinion, you did the right thing in taking the bird -- a baby bird that young likely would not survive out of the nest. However, the public should take wild animals to wildlife rehabilitors, not try to raise or treat the wildlife themselves -- rehabilitators are trained and experienced in caring properly for wildlife. Most states have laws making it illegal for the public to possess wildlife. In addition, by federal law, it is illegal for the public to keep most species of wild birds. In this case, it's likely, based on the color of the mouth, that this is a starling and therefore not a federally-protected bird. But, unlike you, most members of the public don't know how to properly care for wildlife and, despite the good intentions of the finders, the animal is likely to die a slow death in their hands. I feel that any time a writer chooses to publish a story about a wildlife rescue, the points I made above must be included to make the story complete.
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